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Dave Douglas & Keystone: Spark of Being

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The Frankenstein myth still fascinates, 193 years after Mary Shelley published her novel, because the idea of creating a new life out of dead body parts attracts us as much as it repels us. We are all drawn to the idea of playing God, of making something where once there was nothing, but we shrink from the prospect of decay and desecration. Any successful reworking of the Frankenstein myth has to accommodate both sides of that ambivalence.

Dave Douglas’ new three-CD project, Spark of Being, does just that. In creating a soundtrack for Bill Morrison’s experimental Frankenstein film, the trumpeter has found a wordless musical equivalent for the myth of fresh life emerging from the stink of death. Stanford University, which commissioned the soundtrack, gave Douglas the key to the computer-music department’s mammoth library of samples-a morgue of “dead” sounds, as it were. DJ Olive, the turntablist in Douglas’ longstanding Keystone sextet, grabbed those sounds, chopped them up, stitched them together, wrapped them in echo and zapped them with lightning to make them move with the tentative motion and eerie otherworldliness of Shelley’s monster.

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